Non-educators derail contract talks

They have not played nice in the sand box from the beginning. Early on they would cancel and delay negotiations regularly. About November, we were very close to a settlement and out of the blue, they switched negotiators, essentially starting the entire process over.

At one point Superintendent Carole Smith was participating in the negotiations. Evidently she was too earnest in getting a settlement. The next session, after a particularly productive session, Smith was not there, but she was ‘available’ if needed. The session after that, Smith was neither present nor available. We think they “threw her under a bus” or something. Maybe they should have had her park her car somewhere else.

I’m no negotiator myself, but it doesn’t take much to know that a good negotiator will try to get the other side to express intentions regarding the issue being discussed. When the district would finally articulate to the PAT their intentions and desired outcome of a given article being discussed, the PAT would then write up the understood outcome in contract lingo. The district would then say, ‘Oh that’s not what we meant’! And around they’d go again.

After one of the PAT’s rallies, the district ‘magically’ came up with a way to cut $11 million to avoid the 5 furlough days. Now, after the passage of 66 and 67, they deny having a spare $11 million. This begs the question – did they really need the furlough days they were asking for? Or, was it all a ploy to pressure teachers into making concessions on the contract in order to avoid the furlough days?

Where is the district’s increased expense forcing them to trim their budget, especially now that 66 & 67 have passed? It’s certainly not health care. Their health insurance expense for teachers is going up only 80 cents per teacher per month. Wow. I know people whose insurance is going up 25%! On a side note, The Trust, the district’s health care organization, does an incredible job, as this is an unheard of low increase. (The Trust is a board of both district personnel and PAT members managing the health care products they offer to PAT members).

District folks are not educators and do not understand what being a teacher means. They don’t ‘get’ how schools function and the role that teachers play. The PAT negotiators had to explain to them what “student contact time” is. The district wants a longer day for middle school teachers but were googly-eyed when it was explained to them that that would mean those teachers wouldn’t be able to go to staff meetings or attend after-school IEP meetings (two things held precious to administrators). If those teachers had to teach until 4:30 and then attend meetings, their work day would end at 6:30!

Currently, teachers have the first 15 minutes of their work day to get ready for the day – make copies, set up curricular materials for the day, etc. They also have the last 30 minutes of the day to call parents, see students, grade papers, etc. The district wants that time to be instructional time. It had to be explained to them that to require teachers to start their teaching day the minute their working day started and ended, they would not be available to students for questions or help on homework, contacting parents, or even entering the day’s attendance into the eSis database. Again, district officials were googly-eyed when this was explained to them.

This is just a sampling of how things have gone. We’re still trying to negotiate a contract that would expire this June. It seems clear these are people who are out to bust a union.


Board set to approve $320,000 military recruiting contract

The Portland Public Schools board of education is set to approve a contract with the U.S. military to take $320,000 in exchange for access to elementary school children.

The Starbase program, funded from the US Department of Defense recruiting budget, has been raising parent hackles since at least 2006. It is up for re-authorization at tonight’s school board meeting, in the midst of two shooting wars and the “Global War on Terror.”

Parents opposed to the program issued a press release this morning urging the board to vote down this contract. They are also calling on parents to contact the school board about this program.

“We oppose the militarization of our children through a science curriculum,” said Jessica Applegate, mother of two PPS students.

“Students of color are disproportionately represented in their program,” writes parent Carrie Adams on her blog, Cheating in Class.

Nancy Rawley, PPS Equity co-publisher, notes that the $320,000 could pay for “a whole lot of microscopes and science supplies.” She wrote about Starbase here last month.

Update, 3:45 pm: sources tell PPS Equity that the resolution has been pulled from the agenda for today’s meeting, and will appear again soon.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.